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Monday, November 02, 2009

"Racial Resentment"????

I've come upon a new term.  Well, it's new to me, anyway, but I guess it's a term that's been used by scholars in The Academy for a few years now.

I first discovered it when a friend wrote to commend the recently published book, "Authoritarianism & Polarization in American Politics", by Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler.

I became intrigued by it and found a couple of interesting blogs here and here.

The authors use the term "Racial Resentment," noting that it's a term used by more and more political scientists. In fact, that's the term the authors used in a survey they did to measure the link between Health Care Reform and Racial Attitudes.

It's such a new term that even Wikipedia doesn't have a definition for it.  Here's one I found in the American Journal of Political Science:

White racial resentment is associated with opposition to a broad range of racial policies but it is unclear whether it derives from racial prejudice or stems from ideological principles. To resolve this ambiguity, we examined the impact of racial resentment on support for a college-scholarship program in which program beneficiaries' race and socioeconomic class was experimentally varied. The analyses yield a potentially troubling finding: racial resentment means different things to white liberals and conservatives. Among liberals, racial resentment conveys the political effects of racial prejudice, by predicting program support for black but not white students, and is better predicted by overt measures of racial prejudice than among conservatives. Among conservatives, racial resentment appears more ideological. It is closely tied to opposition to race-conscious programs regardless of recipient race and is only weakly tied to measures of overt prejudice. Racial resentment, therefore, is not a clear-cut measure of racial prejudice for all Americans.

I find myself having problems with the term.  It feels like a nuanced, polite-white term for bad, old fashioned 'racism'.

It feels like a similar nuance to the one I experience between 'homophobia' and 'heterosexism'.  

One feels like a nuanced term for the other.  One can be 'heterosexist' without actually being homophobic, I suppose; but if one is homophobic one is probably heterosexist, as well.

Or, for another example: It is sexist to tell 'dumb blond jokes' (because they're exclusively about women) but misogyny is at the root of sexual assault and violence.  However, I'm betting that no one laughs louder at 'dumb blond jokes' than a misogynist.

See what I'm trying to get at here?

I'm a hopeless wordsmith.   I love words.  Perhaps it comes from the fact that English is not my "mother tongue."

I suppose it's a sign of some social progress that some people are quick to vehemently deny being racist. Racism of a blatant kind is now impolitic.  That doesn't change the fact that racism exists.

Or homophobia.  Or heterosexism.  Or misogyny.  Or sexism.

But, 'racial resentment'?

This is 'social progress'?

I don't know.  I'm still reacting to it. I understand it's a term from the realm of political science and that's just not my field.  That may be part of my problem.

I'm a priest. In The Episcopal Church. I'm fine with nuance and paradox and even mystery. I'm not okay with injustice and prejudice.

Or, perhaps my real problem is that, ultimately, I don't find the nuances between sexism and misogyny, or homophobia and heterosexism very helpful.

'Racial resentment' still feels like a 'polite-white' dodge to confronting racism.  There's no real "ambiguity" in my mind.

What do you think?  Is it a 'dodge'?  A sign of 'social progress'?  Or is it a helpful way to talk about the variety and nuanced manifestations of prejudice?

Your thousand-word paper should be on my desk by 10 AM Tuesday morning. ;~)


Elaine C. said...

it's a dodge

Mary-Cauliflower said...

I think it depends on how we want to respond. When I hear a term like "racial resentment," I think about the film The Color of Fear, which portrays a multiethnic group of men confronting their experiences of race and conflict. To me, the most interesting part of the movie is seeing one man confront his own attitudes toward race and the pain in his own life. He's able to do this only because the conversation allows him to dig beneath a veneer of denial. If one goal of conversations about race is to help people change, maybe changing some of the vocabulary (to make participation possible) is a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

My first reaction to the term was that it was about the resentment that many white male heterosexuals have to the fact that the power they have had for centuries is now being diluted by other ethnic groups, women, and gays. Any public support of this, to them is deemed "reverse discrimination"m or just plain racist, (as in Obama being racist, and hating whites). Its roots are a definite world view that women and minorities should stay in their place, keep the existing power structure the way it is. Someone once told me that one of Karl Rove's polemical strategies is to accuse the other of what your group is doing. Racial resentment projects onto others the racism that lives deep down inside us.

Mary Sue said...

It's an academic word, so in academia it is useful for delineating thingamajimmies that are only of interest to academics.

But if you're going to be talking plain, you need to translate it to 'racism'.

The lesson of the political correctness fad is that not everyone, not even those with college degrees, speaks Academic. And that people who don't speak Academic will either not understand the connotations, or will grab the big words and pervert them to weaseling words to try and say "But I'm not!"

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Oh, I don't know, this biology major thinks "racial resentment" is just a tea-party genteel word for "racism." Kind of like how my older relatives 40 years ago said "Nigra" and earnestly thought they were using a polite term.

IT said...

Academic is a fudgy, weasely sort of language. I have no patience with it, which limits my career potential in Academe quite a lot.

June Butler said...

Sounds like code talk to me, an effort to make racism sound what? - acceptable?

Brother David said...

You find folks trying to weasel out of all sorts of stuff.

"It is important to protect people from unjust discrimination but it is ridiculous to claim discrimination every time we show a preference for some people over others,"
George Pell
Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney

Stupid me, here I thought that was the very definition of the word!

Muthah+ said...

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck....

comment moderation word: Formism! I kid you not!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, Dahveed, I was so hoping you'd weigh in. Guess we're all a bunch of lefty liberals in this neighborhood.

MarkBrunson said...

I can't speak for New Jersey, but I certainly find that in Georgia that tends to be a far more accurate term.

Look, I know what a racist is like - I've known people affiliated with the Klan - and they don't dodge. They honestly and fully hate, and will say it to the face of a black, gay, Jewish, Mexican person. Thankfully, those people are aging and their children, or, at least, children's children, seem less inclined to follow them.

Resentment is the more general attitude. Like most resentment, it's fueled by assumptions - there is a "quota-hiring" law, therefore blacks and women get all the good jobs, a black drives a Mercedes, I drive a Ford, so they are getting what I deserve, queers are all over the news, so they are getting all the attention my problems should be getting, and on it goes. Like any resentment, it tends to go away upon actual personal contact - unless the object of the resentment is, to put it bluntly, a real asshole (yes! even in minority groups, there are real, deep-down-to-the-bone assholes! see: MarkBrunson as proof!)

And it isn't just "we" who wriggle out. I've been told many times, both in real life, in media, and here in our own dear liberal blogospere, that it is impossible for a minority or oppressed group to be racist/bigoted, which is usually said by the aforementioned assholes.

People are, indeed, people, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation.

That's the problem. People are people.

MadPriest said...

As usual, Lisbeth, you refuse to let go of the persecutions of the past to which you cling because they give you identity and make you feel comfortable. By labeling all views of race that do not fit into your modernist, old school liberal view you, and people like you, stop all discussion of the matter. It is a form of cultural/philosophical/political fascism. It is also extremely patronising of those you consider too stupid or wrong to have opinions (even if they are stupid and wrong). Most of all it is extremely unhealthy. We will not move on to true racial tolerance until the resentments that linger are allowed to be fully aired in public without their value being judged beforehand.

I cite two precedents for my position - the work of Tutu after the fall of apartheid in South Africa and the (in my opinion) healthy blazing rows and conversations in the blogosphere concerning gays and the church. Our discussions on the Net are not stagnant. They are moving towards resolution even if there is never a complete resolution. The race debate, on the other hand, has been closed down by old school idealists. It has become stagnant and exists with no possibility of resolution. As it has been proved over and over in history, the thin wall of political correctness that holds the resentment and aspirations in, will not hold for ever and, when the ballon bursts - BANG!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Jonathan, your lengthy post is obviously prima facia evidence that my "modernist old school liberal" view (whatever the hell that is and whatever that has to do with me) has shut down.

Being not completely certain of what this term 'really' means, I'm offering my 'reactions" and asking questions of those who visit here for clarification - not diatribes.

It's called "intellectual curiosity". Perhaps you've heard of it England.

MadPriest said...

Lisbeth. Since we met you have accused me of pretty much every "ism" in the dictionary and always when I disagree with you. Which, I suggest, proves my point above.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Silly man, I'm not accusing you of anything other than sending you a side-ways frown, laced with a tinge of sarcasm, for being boorish and jumping to conclusions.

Disagree away, if you wish. Just don't build your argument on ad hominem attacks. Try to stick with the issue and not personalities.

MadPriest said...

If it was an ad hominem attack I would have accused you of being a "smelly," old school liberal. I truly believe that the evidence of your blog shows you to be an old school liberal who refuses to move on to embrace the world that you old school liberals achieved. I have proposed an alternative to using shame to engineer society (which I agree has served us well in the past). I thought it was quite well argued but you choose to shut me down by using shaming words like "diatribe." Although I like diatribe and rant - it's far more healthy and invigorating than your old school psychological devices.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, darling Jonathan, if raising an issue, asking questions and soliciting responses is 'old school liberal' . . .well, color me proudly to the left of center.

I prefer the term "Progressive" but well, whatever. I know how confused and upset you get when people don't stay in the little boxes with labels which you have prepared for them.